Disgraced financier Jho Low, who recently settled with the U.S. government for $700 million in connection to a $4.5 billion Malaysian money scheme, said in a rare interview he was unfairly targeted as a way to place the blame away from global institutions, according to reports.
"[The] inordinate amount of media scrutiny on me compared to that placed on the global financial and other institutions and advisers that actually organized and facilitated the fundraisings at issue is astounding," Low told Singapore’s Straits Times in an article that ran Monday morning.
Federal prosecutors in New York alleged in 2018 Low was involved in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad. It was the first criminal prosecution in the U.S. arising from the corruption scandal at the state investment fund known as 1MDB.
The indictment accused Low of misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the United States and to help finance Hollywood movies, including “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
But Low told the Singaporean outlet the idea he was the "mastermind" of the scheme is false, according to part of the interview obtained by the New York Post.
“The idea that I am some kind of ‘mastermind’ is just wrong,” Low said in the interview published Monday. “… People and companies act as introducers or intermediaries all the time.”
The fund was set up in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote economic development. It relied primarily on debt to fund investment and economic development projects and was overseen by senior Malaysian government officials, according to court records.
Malaysian and U.S. prosecutors alleged that bond sales organized by Goldman Sachs for the 1MDB investment fund provided a way for associates of Najib to steal and launder billions over several years. Najib reportedly set up 1MDB when he took office in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts, and U.S. investigators allege at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund and laundered by Najib’s associates.
The U.S. was able to recover a record $1 billion in the aftermath of the scandal, making it “the largest civil forfeiture ever.” But billions of dollars are still in the wind.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.